50+ FAQs About Tarot Reading

Some of the following questions frequently asked about the tarot are based on the many superstitious beliefs surrounding it.  The ‘New Age’ practice of tarot has evolved beyond these fears and millions of people are open to learning about the tarot now.  Most people have been negatively influenced against the tarot for socio-political reasons, and though people are waking up to these types of institutional manipulations, ignorance still persists. As a professional Tarot Reader for over – ummm, let’s just say- a long time, I have had to defend and educate many good people about the truths and realities of this blessed tool. 

I say ‘blessed tool’ because I believe the Tarot facilitates useful information coming to light that can help us take better informed action, become aware of blocks in our mind or heart, dispel illusions, reveal hidden information, and give more insights into situations and circumstances that can help us be better people or live a better life. 

Here is a list of the 50+ most common questions I have been asked:

50 FAQs

  1. Is the tarot the work of the devil?  No. Of course not. However, like any other tool, the tarot can be used or abused.  Tarot like fire, can be used to illuminate and transform or to hurt and devastate. The Tarot is best used for self awareness and insight into difficulties.  Yes, it can be used to suggest possible future outcomes, but our own free will is the ultimate decision maker.   
  2. Do I have to be psychic to read the tarot?  Yes and no.  Everyone is naturally psychic.  Whether or not you are aware and acknowledging of this is the only real question.  Anyone can memorize what the traditional, middle of the road interpretations are of tarot cards.  Those who flow with their psychic ability will be able to let the story and insights flow into coherent answers much better and more readily than whose who do not allow their psychic energy to flow through them and out of their mouth.
  3. Is it wrong to ask the tarot about other people?  No.  It is more ethical to ask the other person if they consent to your ‘esoteric investigation’ prior to setting off on your  tarot reading journey with a focus on them, but the cards will tell you what you ask about, unless they prefer not to. Also, remember, the tarot is a mirror of yourself, as are so often the people in our lives.
  4. Do I have to be given a deck as a gift in order to use it?  No.  Frankly, the best decks for you to use are those you are drawn to yourself.  However, a gifted deck can be a treasured friend, as well, if the deck clicks with you.  The more comfortable you are with reading the tarot the more you will find that many, many decks want to be used by you- and that you will enjoy working with them.
  5. Must I wrap my decks in silk to keep them free of others energy? No.  But it does help keep them free from dust, smoke, and other environmental pollutants.  And it also gives them an elevated image of value and importance. Silk is so pretty, no?  If you like to see yourself dressed up, use silk. If you are a more cotton or polyester style person, use those fabrics.  Using the box they came in works as well. What is important is to occasionally practice whatever type of cleansing technique you like that will not warp your cards, especially if others use them.  This is the only certain way to keep your decks clear of others energy.
  6. Can I read the cards as well for myself as I can for others?  Yes.  The challenge of reading for oneself is the difficulty in being objective, especially as objective as a indifferent third party can be. Reading for yourself is an excellent exercise in learning about reading the cards.  Also, the tarot is primarily a tool for self discovery. It excels in this capacity.
  7. Can I let others touch or handle my deck? Yes, if you do not mind.  Ask yourself, “Would I mind this person touching me?” If not, then let them touch your deck.  If so, then don’t. If certain parts of your life are private and sacred, you might want to treat your deck that way and keep it to yourself.  The tarot becomes an extension of yourself. So treat it accordingly.
  8. Do I have to follow the rituals, rules and techniques of the authors of the decks I use in order for cards to work properly? No, not necessarily.  Try following the authors process then try your own and see for yourself if there is disparity, and if so, if that disparity is based upon process rather than other criteria, such as mindset, clarity of question, etc.
  9. Does the tarot predict the future? Yes and no.  Any prediction with any divination tool can only indicate the probable future which is an extension of the present.  Once any of us sees the future, your awareness has already begun to alter it and it begins to change.  The Tarot does not lie, nor can it override your free will – or the free will of others who impact our lives.
  10. Is the tarot deterministic?  Of course not, no. The nature of mind of man / woman is that we are each blessed with free will.  That having been said, if you choose to use the tarot to make decisions for you, you are free to do so. In presenting possibilities and probabilities, the tarot gives you information which you can use to make better informed choices.  This can give you greater control over your life. You always have the power to manifest or avoid what you see in the cards.
  11. How can cards selected at random be accurate?  This is a good, fair and reasonable question. The best answer I can provide is, I do not know.  I just know it works. This is the persistent mystery of any divination system. There are many synchronicities at work in the universe.  This is part of the magic and mystery of life.
  12. What can I ask the tarot?  Whatever you like.  Any topic can be explored.  The more specific the question the clearer the answer will be. A great exercise for learning the tarot is to ask it about any person, place or thing.  Ask it any of the ‘journalists six’ questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?  Also, a great question to ask the tarot is “Tell me what I need to know about ____?”  This is a more advanced question, and you must be able to read a variety of answers into the cards for clarity, in many instances.
  13. Do I have to read reversed cards as reversed cards if they fall in the reading as reversed?  Not necessarily.  Every card can be read from either upside down or reversed as one is intuitively guided.  If reading reversals interests you, (as they can lend themselves to much deeper and nuanced layers of analysis), get my book Free Style Tarot: Unconventional Interpretations for ‘different’ reversed meanings.
  14. Does the Death card mean someone will die? No.  Very generally, it can mean permanent change is afoot whether you like it or not.
  15. What is the best way to learn about the tarot and how to read it?  Use books or teachers, if you like.  The best way, in addition to any other, is to practice, practice, practice, and watch talented YouTube readers with an eye and ear open to learning.  
  16. Do upside down cards mean something different than upright cards? Yes, if you want them to do so, no if you don’t want them to. Some readers say they “do not read reversals”, but in practice they actually do.  I believe any good reader notes how a card falls and incorporates that fact into their interpretation of the spread.  I think what they mean by that statement is that they do not get caught up in strict interpretations of alternative meanings of reversed cards.  In best practice it is important to note the reversal of any card because the fact of it falling reversed at least indicates a change in the energy present in the situation the card refers to in its placement. Reversals can indicate delays, incompletions, blockages, etc.  
  17. Do reversed cards mean the opposite of their upright meaning? Not necessarily.  Follow your intuitive guidance, the position in the spread, and story line for clues based upon the question asked as to the reversed cards meaning.
  18. How is it possible that with so many different decks around that they are all reliable?  Tarot cards are infused with the energy of their creators.  That energy is all part of the collective energy we all work with.  The archetypes of the tarot remain the same regardless of the given name of a suit or card. It is the archetype of the respective energy that interacts with the Divine which in turn works through the reader for interpretation at a level we humans can understand.
  19. Is it necessary to learn all the symbols and meanings of the cards prior to using them?  No.  Frankly, if you want to avoid a burdensome habit, do not do this.  Start by letting the cards speak to you through your intuition. The symbols of the tarot will never stop revealing their secrets to you, so it is impossible to learn all there is to know about the symbols individually or in combination.  Reference materials are super helpful to get a flavor of a card or to more deeply understand the energies it represents, but upfront dependence can become permanently crippling and undermining of one’s own confidence as a tarot card reader.
  20. What is the meaning behind the tarot?  What makes the tarot (and astrology, I Ching, Runes, Bones, etc.) so valuable is revelation of the deep understanding of our energetic flows and ebbs and the nature of our beingness.  Each one of these oracles leads us to these ends. Though they certainly can be used to forecast events, etc., prediction is not the fundamental purpose of divination methods of any kind.
  21. Some readers insist that the cards must be drawn with the left hand.  Why? The left side of the human body is associated with the feminine – receptive pull of energy and is associated with intuition.  Though the ancients instinctively knew this, this has become a proven fact under clinical conditions involving brain research. The left hand is more sensitive to receiving the subtle energy released by the cards when they are ready to speak.
  22. Should left handed people also pull the cards with their left hand? Yes.
  23. Is the reading as accurate if the reader pulls the cards for me? Yes.  If the question has been formulated carefully and the question or concern firmly held in your mind while the reader shuffles and pulls, then your reading will be similarly accurate.  You and the reader will psychically connect as soon as your question is clear in your mind.
  24. When is it better to get a reading from someone else rather than doing one for myself?  When you have much inner tension, or fear, or expectations that are fixed in connection with the question, or are strongly upset, or are unsure of your ability to be objective, it is best to let another read for you.
  25. Tarot readings often seem so heavy.  Is it possible to have light hearted interactions with the cards?  Sure.  The cards will respond to what you ask them, so mundane advice about everyday goings on, love and romance, etc., is as readable as deeply insightful or spiritual guidance.
  26. Can the cards read accurately for someone who is not present? Yes. But, there is a catch to this process.  The querent should have a close connection to the person not present and a justifiable interest in  the question asked. It can become problematic if the person asking the question is considerably disturbed about the relationship or the other person because the cards will reflect the wishes or anxiety of the querent, but not as much of the actual situation of the other person. The risk here lies in the cards not giving a balanced reading under this circumstance, making the outcome more likely to be misleading in that it will produce reflective answers rather than insightful answers.
  27. How long a time to readings cover? The average time period  which the cards relate to is four to six weeks.  A specific question can be asked within the time frame of up to 2 years, but so much can otherwise happen during that time span, that the present circumstances will no doubt be altered by future influences which can change the present apparent outcome.  That being said, exceptions to this boundary abound. If the question is in regard to a tendency/project/relationship already in development then continued unfolding of the situation is likely to be completed at a time certain. Usually, the time period covered, unless specifically requested, is around three months.  This does not mean the reading will lose its significance after a longer period of time, if that is important to the reading. However, it does become increasingly less easy to forecast longer periods of time, as free will of the querent and others involved will always impact the future development or outcome of any event.  Predictions for the future will always come to pass to some degree, yet still with considerable probability, the reliability of an event in question decreases with increasing temporal distance. So the value of messages going passed one year is almost certainly uncertain. 
  28. Is there a limit to what the reader can or should predict? Yes. A card reader is not a ‘fortune teller’. A card reader is simply an interpreter or translator of what the cards reveal to them through the images and placements in spreads. Think of a card reader as a type of dream interpreter mediating the dialog between the querent and the unconscious of that person.  Readings give verbal expression to what the inner knowingness we have is, but might not want to or be able to hear ourselves. Messages that announce seemingly inescapable events – like unavoidable misfortune – without the accompanying counsel of discussion on how that message or experience is necessary for the situation to change or unfold should be taken with a grain of salt.  Sure, some truly psychic people can foresee the future, but not all tarot readers are psychic.  The meaning of the message is found in achieving a deeper understanding of the greater context of this ‘calamitous’ experience.  
  29. Are people manipulated by readings into creating self fulfilling prophecy? Sometimes, this might seem the case.  The fact is, that people accept answers that he or she unconsciously are prepared to accept.  If they believe an interpretation to be unfair or inaccurate, they will dismiss it. Maybe they will ask a different oracle the same question hoping to get a different answer.  They will stop their search when they get the answer they are prepared to accept. It is not until the querent understands that the information they are being given is what they need to hear, that they will look at their situation or their partner from a different perspective without rose colored glasses.  Most people who get a tarot reading are looking to escape the pressure of their concern and get relief.  When they hear what they need to hear, the anxiety that brought them to the reading (probably) will dissipate.
  30. How reliable is the Tarot? Predictions of the future come to pass to a lesser degree than readings related to events of the past or the present.  This is because, as mentioned earlier, the reliability of an event in question decreases with temporal distance due to the imposition of free will.  This is also true because people who have a high degree of personal consciousness, confidence and comfort with their own power are more likely to impose their free will on achieving the outcome they seek than those who are weaker willed and more likely to succumb to their fate.  The cards point out experiences we must have, so in this effect they are very reliable. However, how we experience these experiences are part of our free will. The cards clearly have high reliability regarding past events and present happenings since these events and experiences are already manifested or are happening / unfolding currently in the present.
  31. How does a reader know which of the many meanings of any given card is the correct one for a reading? There are two types of readers, in general.  The first is the type who has a storehouse of meanings for each card and they apply the meaning or meanings range to the reading they are giving.  For example, some YouTube readers who read for the general public will qualify their interpretations of a card by not only the position it falls in a spread, but by saying “some of you will experience” or “some of you have felt that’, or “those of you who are interested in money matters will find”, or “those of you who have domestic concerns will need to”, in order to offer the widest range possible for their viewers.  In private readings, though, when there is one person as the focus, then the intuition of the reader must kick in in order to hone in on the message the querent needs to hear. Only a novice, narrow and rigid minded, or unskilled reader will trot out the same meanings time and time again without further expansion of meaning.
  32. How is it possible that the querent can draw the ‘right’ card without knowing what the cards mean or understanding the layout for the reading? When the querent is working with a reader there occurs an unconscious link between the two and a unity develops leading the querent to draw the right cards which the reader can interpret for them for that reading.  Remember, the Tarot has been around for many hundreds of years.  If it did not work, it would have gone by the wayside eons ago.
  33. Should I have a second opinion of my reading by another person?  No.  This will not prove helpful because any other person will have their own valid interpretation of the cards that fell in your previous reading.  Chances are, you did not hear what you wanted to hear.  The same message, not verbatim but in general, will likely come up again and again.  The wiser thing to do is to open your mind and consider a different perspective on your problem rather than holding out hope for a reader to tell you what you want to hear.
  34. Is there a ‘right’ or ‘true’ final and unwavering meaning for any card? No. There are however lots of subjective interpretations of each card.
  35. What can I ask tarot cards? You can ask about anything! Some readers believe the only questions you should not ask are those answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I do not ascribe to this rule, however, and find that if you know how to ask yes or no questions of the cards they can be accurate. The cards are best put to use when seeking next steps, revealing hidden blocks to progress, or showing us consequences of possible actions. They are wonderful at giving information about tendencies, current situations, hidden background or causes, making suggestions about possible courses of action.  Also, they can provide a mirror of ourselves helping with questions of self-awareness and ugly (or pretty) truths about ourselves.
  36. Why does the church condemn tarot card use?  There are many reasons. 1)The power of the tarot lies in the individual’s ability to seek and find direction independent of an organization or other person.  It is a tool of self empowerment and self discovery. The church is organized for the exact opposite purpose. The church needs us to be dependent upon it for all our answers and guidance.  So, of course, it will condemn any practice that dis-empowers it. 2) Most Tarot readers are women, and organized religions typically do not like women having any means of financial support outside of their husband or male relatives. 3) Much of the mystery of how Tarot Cards work cannot be explained, and religious leaders often blame what they cannot explain on ‘the devil’. 4) Organized religion feeds off people being kept in the dark about their inner power to connect directly to the Divine without the intermediary of ‘the church’.  That’s how they keep people coming back to services every week.  They teach that any information coming from any source other than them is just the Devil trying to trick you.  I have hear that one with my own ears many times.
  37. Is it okay to use a previously owned deck?  Sure, just clear any accompanying vibes from it that might be carried over from another person or environment.  This can be done with sage, knocking, bathing in sun or moon light, prayer, or whatever procedure you chose that will do the job.
  38. Do the cards burn out and need to be recharged?  Burn out, no, however, they will require recalibration between readings.  This is achieved by either reshuffling or placing them back into order after you have finished conducting a reading.
  39. How can I get information about a deck before I purchase it?  I use Aeclectic.net, Amazon, Ebay, chat rooms, blogs, YouTube videos, etc. for reviews of decks prior to purchase, unless a deck just pulls me to it.  Yeah, they can do that!  
  40. Can I make my own tarot cards?  Sure! I heartily recommend this practice for a couple of reasons: 1) You can deeply learn about each cards archetype as you design your own version of it. And, 2) You can learn about traditional symbolism on the traditional cards and create your own system. Putting your own creativity to use is an excellent use of time and divine energy.
  41. What can you ask the cards? You can ask the cards anything, so long as the reader has the skills to interpret them for the answer.  It is unwise to put a reader in the position of answering health questions, and Yes-No type questions unless you are open to accepting the ‘ifs’ connected with yes-no type answers.  The best questions include, but are not limited to: Issues of self-awareness, self-realization, or spiritual path; the best decision or course of action to take; future outcomes on a current path; tendencies and perspectives; problem solving advice; how to achieve a goal; the causes or reasons for a specific experience or situation; the current status of a matter; clarification of the past; options present in a situation; the underlying problem or hidden influence in a matter; etc.  Timing questions are best answered by a reader who is very skilled with calculating Tarot time.
  42. What can’t we learn from the cards? Opinions vary.  Some authorities say yes or no answers will not be revealed, and I know this to be otherwise, depending on the type of question asked. The cards will not tell you what you want to hear, but they will tell you what you need to know.  They also will not reveal information that is not meant for you to know. The cards can tell you much in the hands of a skilled reader. The reader sets the limits upon the reading in accordance with their tarot reading ethics, in consort with the cards themselves and a properly asked question.
  43. How is it possible that the cards give meaningful answers?  Like the Bible or other so called holy treatise, the information reveals itself metaphorically.  In the case of the Tarot, these metaphors are expressed in images via symbols. I have heard this explained as the tarot being the ‘alphabet of the metaphorical language of our soul”. The unconscious mind speaks in images.  The unconscious mind has a different relationship to time and space than the conscious mind and can express how it sees a matter in question. What is imperative is that the interpreter understand this language.
  44. Where can I buy tarot cards? Lots of places!  You can buy tarot cards from many storefront bookstores, online bookstores, metaphysical  / psychic shops, private collectors you can find on forums devoted to the tarot, tarot deck and book author / designer websites, eBay (and places like eBay) online, many pagan and Wiccan bricks and mortar stores or websites, YouTube readers sometimes also sell decks, often of their own design, and other tarot card users who seek to sell or exchange their decks with other enthusiasts.
  45. Can I use tarot cards in magick spells? Certainly.  There are a number of books available and blog posts dedicated to this practice.  Of course, the usual precautions need be respected when conducting any spell.  Why?  Because they work, and if you do them incorrectly they can bite you…hard.
  46. Why do different people get different interpretations of the cards?  Everyone has their own intuition, storehouse of remembered knowledge gleaned from books, others, and experience. People express themselves differently.  Readers have certain specialties or affinities that they tend to focus on or lean towards. All individuals bring their own life experience to each reading.
  47. What should you keep in mind when shuffling the cards? The question needing to be answered…and nothing else.
  48. Is it possible to become addicted to the tarot? I assume if you have an addictive personality disorder, you can become addicted to anything that soothes your anxiety, as the tarot often does.  If you find you are constantly drawn to tarot readings, you are likely not adequately dealing with a matter of concern that is causing you to feel anxious about an issue in your life. The cards themselves are not causing you to be addicted to them.
  49. How should a person deal with a prediction of disaster?  With common sense. At no time should your own intuition be ignored in favor of someone else’s. That having been said, the tarot can predict experiences or events that we might deem disasters; but are they really disasters, or just changes we would rather not have to experience?  If by disaster in the ordinary use of the term as we would describe a plane crash, for instance, then, yes, the Tarot can make such a prediction. That having been said, free will of all involved in the maintenance and operation of the plane always also contribute to fate playing out as predicted or avoided.
  50. What is the relationship between the tarot and astrology, runes, or the I Ching? Each of these oracles has ancient roots and speaks its own language and the language of the culture is springs from, with the western mystical traditions of astrology, runes, and tarot being most relatable by most of us in the West.  There is a great difference between how to understand the I Ching deeply versus the other three, just as there is a great difference between the perceptions of life, and the language used to describe it, between western and eastern cultures. They each and all give good insights into the nature of life and human beings, our daily tasks in life, and our larger cycles of experience with ourselves and with others in a variety of circumstances. What matters is how well versed the reader is in the various language of the respective oracle, and how open the querent is to the answer given, for deep understanding to occur.
  51. Are there good and bad tarot cards? No.  There are good and bad readers, questions, and levels of acceptance and understanding of information gleaned.

Have a question about the tarot I have not answered here?  Ask me!

CONCLUSION

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Author, Cathleen Vaune Carr

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Related content: Free Style Tarot: Unconventional Interpretations

                           Telling Time with Tarot Cards: Tarot Timing Techniques

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